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Stone Artifacts Help Determine When Humans Left Africa

The discovered cache of stone artifacts in Saudi Arabia could reveal when the species of early hominins left Africa and migrated to other continents. A cache of artifacts was discovered by archaeologists in Saudi Arabia, Live Science reports.

Credit: Andrew Shuttleworth and Frederick Foulds

The researchers behind the discovery belong to the DISPERSE project, which studies the diaspora of our ancestors across Africa and Asia. There are more than 1,000 of the artifacts which were discovered in a basin of porous rock which is bordered by volcanic lava a few miles from the coastline of the Red Sea, according to an update from the DISPERSE project’s website.

As mentioned above, the cache of stone artifacts includes many artifacts, including fragments of weapons such as handaxes, knives and spear points, but also tools like animal hide-scrapers, hide-piercers and hammer stones. According to Live Science, one handaxe weighs almost eight pounds, which makes it heavier compared to the other handaxes that have been found. According to DISPERSE, it’s the first of its kind found in the Arabian Peninsula.

Scientists published their findings in the scientific journal Antiquity.

“The site and its associated artifacts provide important new evidence for hominin dispersals out of Africa, and give further insight into the giant handaxe phenomenon present within the Acheulean stone tool industry,” the researchers wrote in the paper.

“Acheulian” artifacts originate from anywhere between 1.76 million years and 100,000 years ago. Researchers know that the climate of the time those tools were used was wetter compared to the climate now. However, scientists are enthusiastic about revealing a more specific timeline with more research.

“It’s far more arid [today] than it was at certain points in time,” lead author Frederick Foulds, an archaeology professor at Durham University in England, told Live Science. “It’s strange to be walking over hard, dry rocks which were formed by water pooling during a far wetter period. We think it was during these wetter periods that it’s likely the site was occupied.”

Foulds also told Live Science that further analysis will help find the date range in which the tools were created.

“During periods when the ice sheets were at their largest, there was widespread aridity in the Sahara and Arabian deserts, but during periods when the ice sheets shrank, the climate of these regions became a lot wetter,” Foulds told Live Science. “What’s interesting about the Wadi Dabsa region is that the geography of the region may have created a refuge from these changes.”